It may have been Canada Day, but July 1st marked a momentous occasion for an American hockey player. That was the day Phil Kessel was traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins. But this isn’t the story of that American hockey player.
For Rochester, NY-born Tyler Biggs, who was part of the package Pittsburgh acquired, it marked an opportunity for a new start with a new club – and maybe one that could better benefit from his talents.
“There was opportunity on both sides, but maybe more so opportunity — with the type of player I am — in Pittsburgh right now,” Biggs explained. “More than anything, I was happy in Toronto too, but it’s a business. I guess it’s not something that I can control. They thought it would be a better situation if they got someone that fit a role for what they were looking for.
“Pittsburgh was looking for someone who fits this role and they got me.”
Biggs is back in London, Ontario, playing in the 2015 Leafs Rookie Tournament. But whereas in previous years he was wearing the blue and white, this year he returns to the tournament a member of the Penguins and facing off against his former team. He admitted that it’s an odd experience.
“It’s a little weird — although I think I’ve seen more staff members that I know than teammates,” he said. “A lot of guys that I came through with have been moved out or they got a little bit older, so they won’t come this year. There are definitely some faces that I’ve spent the last couple of years with.”
Biggs, Tim Erixon, and a second-round draft pick accompanied Kessel to Pittsburgh. Biggs said he wasn’t expecting the call when it came.
“It was a little bit of a surprise. You go into that knowing that it’s all out of your hands. I wasn’t going to be sitting around the phone, or anything like that. I didn’t know if I was going to be traded or not,” he said. “I was out on the golf course, I got a phone call, and that was it. It was a short phone call, but it was an understood one. It was pretty simple.”
Coming back to his third rookie tournament in the Budweiser Gardens adds a little familiarity to the situation, despite the new uniform and teammates.
“I think the whole tournament itself, this is my third tournament, it’s a lot of young guys getting their pro careers started, it’s exciting,” he said. “Games are pretty similar to when I played before. But wearing the Pittsburgh logo and to be with a new group of guys, it’s really an exciting time for me right now and I’m happy to be healthy and back on the ice.”
Testing that health is a big part of what Biggs was looking to do at this tournament. He suffered an Achilles injury and has only recently been cleared. His strong showing in the first game of the tournament helped alleviate any lingering concerns.
“It was great to be back on the ice – my first game in seven months or so,” Biggs said. “To get out there and throw the body around, touch the puck, feel the speed of the game – it all felt good.”
And it just validates the bill of clean health he received on his Achilles prior to lacing them up.
“Yes. It’s all good. I got cleared before tournament,” he said. “That’s one thing I wanted to make sure of that I was 100 per cent coming into here.”
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